In late August, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) unveiled its FYs 2024–25to a state board of education committee. The vast majority of ODE’s budget simply passes through to Ohio schools via funding formulae, and the rest mainly supports the agency’s administrative work. As such, there’s usually not much to write home about when ODE releases its biennial budget request. But this year’s proposal includes some exciting initiatives, including several that would give literacy efforts a lift statewide. The ideas would, of course, need to be included in the state budget legislation, which will be introduced early next year, and passed by lawmakers next summer to become reality.
Following an encouraging, the ODE blueprint emphasizes the . This term refers to instructional approaches that a large body of research has found to support strong reading. These include, notably, systematic and explicit and a that aids reading comprehension. Though have long understood the importance of such practices, schools have not always implemented them and many still rely on literacy models.
The budget proposal would support the science of reading in three key ways:
- Deploying literacy coaches in low-performing schools:
indicate that teacher coaching—an intensive and hands-on form of professional development—can lift student achievement. Mississippi, a state that has recently made , has developed a widely admired . Under ODE’s proposal, the agency would hire 100 literacy coaches who would support schools with low reading proficiency rates, at a cost of $23 million over the next biennium. This could give struggling schools a real boost. Literacy coaches with training and experience in the science of reading could provide just the feedback needed to sharpen the practices of educators working in Ohio’s neediest schools.
- Incentivizing the use of high-quality instructional materials: Educators not only need supports to implement effective reading instruction, but also curricula and materials that are aligned to the science. While Ohio ultimately leaves curriculum decisions to local districts, it can and should encourage the adoption of high-quality materials (something
has done). To this end, ODE proposes a $6 million expenditure to rigorously vet reading materials and offer a financial incentive for districts to adopt approved materials. The budget request seems somewhat low, though it might reflect a “startup” year to develop a catalog of approved materials and just one year of cost reimbursements (FY 2025). If the program successfully launches, the state would be smart to ramp up spending on this initiative in future years.
- Encouraging teacher PD in the science of reading: Though half-day, workshop-type professional development programs have a spotty track record, teachers from all corners of Ohio could use refreshers on (or perhaps introductions to) the science of reading. To help ensure that teachers have broad exposure to the science, ODE proposes a $20 million program (over two years) that would provide PD stipends of $400 to $1,200, depending on a teacher’s grade level. PD in the science of reading is certainly worthwhile, but if the budget gets tight, Ohio would probably get more bang for the buck through well-implemented coaching and materials programs.
In addition to the reading initiatives discussed above, ODE also notes a few other promising literacy initiatives that it plans to undertake. They include strengthening its parental resources and working with higher education to ensure that teacher preparation programs are providing instruction in the science of reading. The agency also proposes to continue several programs initiated in response to the pandemic, including funding for summer school and tutoring grants.
To its credit, ODE has given stronger credence to the science of reading through theit released in early 2020. Now the agency is asking to put some money where its mouth is by proposing new spending initiatives that support effective literacy practices. The state board—and ultimately the legislature—should approve ODE’s initiatives, as they’d be another step towards ensuring that all Ohio students have the foundational reading skills needed for lifelong success.